John’s Gospel Chapter 4
E. L. Lovering, Ilfracombe
IN OUR LAST LESSON the Lord Jesus talked with a man who had a religious problem, a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin. Now He is talking to a woman with a moral problem, an outcast and despised Samaritan.
Note three interesting Samaritans of the New Testament, and observe that they illustrate three principles -
John 4. The Guilty Samaritan - GUILT.
Luke 10. The Good Samaritan - GRACE.
Luke 17. The Grateful Samaritan - GRATITUDE.
In our present portion observe -
A Route that was Planned
w. 1-6 'He must needs go through Samaria'
Look at a map of Palestine and see that Galilee was in the north, Judaea in the south, and that Samaria lay between. This was, therefore, the quickest route for a traveller to take, but prejudice prevented Jews from journeying through Samaria, for 'Jews had no dealings with Samaritans'.
The more usual route was over the Jordan into Perea and thence by a circular road into Galilee.
The Saviour broke with tradition to meet with a needy soul at a well in the village of Sychar; the necessary path was the path of opportunity and purpose. This was not a human accident but a divine incident, for "he knew all things", being God as well as man.
A Request that was Puzzling
vv. 7-9 'Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink'
The woman was no doubt surprised at seeing a Jew in the locality of Samaria and certainly bewildered when He asked of her a favour. Her words 'How is it?', v. 9, declare this fact. This revealed that she was unaware of the -
PURPOSE OF CHRIST'S REQUEST
He spoke of the natural that He might impart the spiritual; He asked in order to give. Christ always enriches and enables, we are never impoverished by giving to Him.
To Andrew and Peter casting their net into the sea He said, 'Come ye after me and I will make you to become fishers of men' - He did not take away their fisherman's skill but raised it to a nobler and higher vocation, no longer catching fish unto death, but men unto life.
A Reply that was Personal
To the woman's question in v. 9 the Saviour made a personal appeal.
'If thou knewest the gift of God and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou would'st have asked of him and he would have given thee living water', v. 10.
This revealed her ignorance of the -
PERSON OF CHRIST
The gift of God was WHO not WHAT.
a. She needed a 'gift' not a 'reward'. 'The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord', Rom. 6. 23; 'By grace arc ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works lest any man should boast', Eph. 2. 8, 9.
b. She needed a 'spring' not a 'cistern'. The word 'well' in v. 6 is given as 'spring' in the R.v. margin. Perhaps the difference is that a well is a container for water from without, whereas a spring is a source of living water from within. The cisterns of earth, though deep as Jacob's well, can never satisfy the heart's deep need.
c. She needed a 'power' not a 'place'. Jacob's well held many romantic memories, it was near the parcel of ground which Jacob gave to his son Joseph; had this woman journeyed there in the noontide heat because she imagined that the water of this well was better than that of any other? David, in his day, longed for water from the well of Bethlehem, 2 Sam. 23. 15, and places are often held in respect by their association with an honoured person or event. Her regard for the patriarch Jacob was high indeed, 'Sir thou has nothing to draw with and the well is deep . . . Art thou greater than our father Jacob?' This revealed her ignorance of the -
POWER OF CHRIST
She had, as yet, an inferior estimation of the power of the Christ; no one comes to blessing who refuses to believe in His power to save and keep.
A Rebuke that was Penetrating
The woman had asked 'Sir give me this water that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw'.
To this the Saviour replied with a remark that was personally penetrating, for it touched the depths of her unsatisfied life; said He, 'Go, call thy husband', v. 16. If the spring of eternal satisfaction and life was to be hers, there must first be personal correction and conviction. She endeavoured to evade the issue by –
a. Verbal distortion, v. 17-19. Note how this was a deliberate misinterpretation of the truth. Was she not in effect saying, 'It depends what you mean by husband'? It is interesting to note that when she returned to the city, she said to 'the men', 'Come see a man . . .', v. 28, 29. This attitude revealed her ignorance of the -
PRESENCE OF CHRIST
Sin cannot hide in His presence, for even the secret thoughts of the heart are known to Him. He knew all about her; ways not words are the criteria of character.
Verbal wrangling and philosophic phrases are no answer to the problem of sin. In the holiness of His presence, Isaiah cried 'Woe is me! for I am undone' and Peter said, 'Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord'.
Then it was that the woman exclaimed, 'Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet', v. 19.
b. Theological discussion, v. 19-26. Now that the real issue could not be avoided, was it not natural to adopt another favourite method and to direct the Saviour's attention to another subject? And what better subject than the lofty theme of worship? Mark, however, the grace of the Saviour in consenting to continue the discussion, and the illuminating remarks on this important subject. Let us note some of the salient features in reply to her question -
WHERE TO WORSHIP
Mount Gerizim, nearly 3,000ft. above sea-level, was die site of the Samaritan temple. This temple was destroyed some one hundred years before the birth of Christ, but the site remained the place where the Samaritans continued to worship, according to the traditions of the elders.
For the Jew, the place of worship was Jerusalem, for had not the Lord 'chosen to place His name there', Deut. 12. 11.
Worship was, however, not a matter of locality but reality, not of outward form but inward fervour.
'Where'er men seek Thee, Thou art found,
And every place is hallowed ground'.
WHO TO WORSHIP
The supreme object of worship is the Father - true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father seeketh such to worship Him.
The Pharisees and Scribes worshipped in vain, teaching for doctrines the commandments and traditions of men, as wash¬ing of pots and cups, Mark 7. 7, 8; they honoured God with their lips, but their heart was far from Him.
There were those in Colosse who had indeed 'a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility and were subject to ordinances not keeping their hold upon Christ, the Head, Col. 2. 18-23. Worship belongs to God; worship of another is idolatry.
HOW TO WORSHIP
'God is a spirit and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth'. True worship is both spiritual and scriptural.
A Reaping that was Plenteous
LIFT UP - INSPIRATION FOR THE WORK
The Samaritan fields were hard and difficult, surely the time was not ripe for harvest - four months of ploughing, sowing and waiting, then, cometh harvest. Such was the out¬look of human reasoning, the result of 'looking down'. But faith demands an upward look - lift up your eyes and see the possibilities before you.
Ground that looks so hopeless is often ready for reaping; do not miss the opportunity.
LOOK ON - CONTEMPLATION OF THE WORK
It is well to carefully 'look on' the fields (same word as in I John 1.1, behold, observe), and contemplate the call and cost of harvest. No labourer should enter the harvest field who has not first 'counted the cost'. The reward is great but so are the requirements.
LAUNCH OUT - EXULTATION IN THE WORK
'The fields are white already to harvest'. What greater joy than joy of harvest - when the sheaves are ripe for the sickle? Both sower and reaper may rejoice together, both shall share the reward. And so from the solitary soul at Sychar's spring there sprang a rich and plenteous harvest –
v. 39. 'Many of" the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman'.
v. 41. 'And many more believed because of his own word and said'.
v. 42. 'We have heard for ourselves and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world'. The field is still the world - Lift up, Look on, Launch out.